Byline: Bill Cresenzo
A man who suffered life-threatening injuries after a woman on a cell phone ran a stop sign and crashed into his vehicle has settled a lawsuit against her estate for $1.75 million, the man's attorneys report.
In April 2017, James Nitsch was driving west on a rural stretch ofN.C. Highway 27 in Chatham County when another motorist, Bonnie Stephenson, ran a stop sign and collided at high speed with his driver's side door, said Hunt Willis and Forest Horne of Martin & Jones in Raleigh.
Stephenson died, while Nitsch suffered life-threatening injuries to his spleen and liver. He also suffered acute traumatic injuries, including rib and non-displaced spinal fractures, and a head injury.
He was airlifted to WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, where he underwent two abdominal surgeries to remove his spleen and repair internal injuries.
He spent three weeks in intensive care and three weeks in in-patient rehabilitation, Willis said, and underwent of out-patient rehabilitation
After an opening settlement offer of $500,000, Nitsch filed the lawsuit, Willis said.
"The plaintiff's recovery and his claim were complicated by the fact that he had pre-existing multiple sclerosis, which had impacted his ability to walk without assistance before the collision," Willis said.
However, he has made a "remarkable" recovery and is able to walk again, but requires assistance from a walker instead of a cane, he said.
The case was defended on contributory negligence and the pre-existing condition.
"The defense argued that the plaintiff should have seen the decedent's vehicle approaching the intersection and should have slowed or made some maneuver to avoid the collision," Willis said.
The attorneys discovered through records that Stephenson was likely on her cell phone at the time of the crash, Willis said.
"Those developments essentially led the defense to rescind the contributory negligence allegations," Willis said. "We certainly had concerns, considering our case was against a widower who was serving as the administrator of his deceased wife's estate, and these were fine...